The Simplicity of Shoyu Ramen
There are four main types of broth commonly used for ramen dishes in Japan: shoyu, shio, miso, and tonkotsu. In English, these ramens translate to: soy sauce, salt, soybean paste, and pork bone. These broths are the key components for every bowl of authentic Japanese ramen, and are taken very seriously by Japanese chefs. Recipes have been passed down through generations, though some revolutionary types of ramen have also emerged over the years, such as curry ramen and seafood ramen.
For today’s article, we’ll be talking about the staple broth of ramen, and the type of ramen that’s often considered the original, true ramen: shoyu ramen.
What is Shoyu Ramen?
Shoyu Ramen, or soy sauce ramen, is easily distinguishable by a clear, slightly brown broth and salty taste. Many regions of Japan have their own take on how the broth should be flavored, and as such some will have beef, pork, or fish in the broth as well. Generally speaking, if you’re at a ramen establishment and the menu simply says ‘ramen’, you’re either going to be served a bowl of shoyu ramen or the restaurant’s signature ramen by default.
The broth is generally made by combining chicken broth, vegetable broth, and soy sauce together to meld into one delicious soup base. Normal toppings to add are scallions, pork belly slices, boiled eggs, bamboo shoots, seaweed, and slices of fish cake. Shoyu ramen is also sometimes referred to as ‘Chuka Soba’ (Chinese noodles), or ‘Tokyo Ramen’. The preferred type of ramen noodle to use in the broth are curly and thin, though the choice is completely up to the chef to decide. The taste is said to be light, but decidedly salty and tangy.
Why Was Shoyu Ramen Created?
Said to be the first flavor of ramen available in Japan, shoyu ramen is likely the closest ramen still related to the original Chinese ramen that first came to Japan. It was during the Meiji period that Japan opened its first ramen street stalls, and in 1910 a small shop in Asakusa sold the first bowl of ramen. Originally, ramen had been created as a dish that could be eaten quickly so that workers could consume a decent meal during their lunch breaks.
Many saw the dish as a type of comfort food, and with the addition of vegetables and meat toppings it was considered to be part of a balanced diet. There were a few cities that took hold of shoyu ramen and made it their own, specifically Asahikawa in Hokkaido, Kitakata in Fukushima, Asakusa in Tokyo, and Onomichi in Hiroshima. Elderly citizens in Japan prefer this ramen due to the strong memories associated with the dish.
How To Make Traditional Shoyu Ramen
Thankfully, the majority of Japanese signature dishes are made using simple ingredients. Unfortunately, many recipes that involve making stocks and such from scratch can take quite some time to prepare, You can either make the chicken, beef, or seafood broth from scratch, or buy pre-made stock. Regardless of which you choose, your ramen is only as good as the ingredients you put into it and what noodles you decide to use.
Things that you can add to make your shoyu ramen more authentic are bamboo shoots, scallions, braised pork belly slices, soy sauce, boiled eggs, sliced fish cakes, black pepper, seaweed, and curly ramen noodles. There are many ways to mix and match ingredients, and there are almost no right or wrong ways to prepare your shoyu ramen – the main thing to remember is that shoyu ramen is all about soy sauce!
Where To Get Traditional Shoyu Ramen
Almost every ramen establishment will have traditional shoyu ramen, though many will have put their own twist on the classic ramen dish. Due to the fact that there are so many ramen shops all over Japan, we’ll just highlight three of our top choices for getting authentic shoyu ramen while in or around Tokyo.
Kanekatsu offer delicious shoyu ramen in a traditional chicken broth, but also serves its patrons handmade noodles that are made right before your eyes! All noodles are made in house, and can also be made-to-order to customer specifications. You can watch as the chefs carefully arrange the dish, placing chiyu, shoyu tare, soup, noodles, and toppings carefully into the bowl before handing it to the customer. With only five seats to choose from, it’s no wonder every customer gets the attention and treatment they deserve! Mainly due to their location, Kanekatsu remains a hidden gem that supplies some of the best shoyu ramen available in Japan.
Address: 2-14-23 Iizuka, Kawaguchi, Saitama
Not only does this tasteful ramen shop offer shoyu ramen, but they also put an interesting, personal twist on the classic recipe by adding a different bird to the mix – duck! The soup is duck-based, and the bowl is topped with succulent, juicy slabs of duck meat and slices of Japanese kabosu citrus. If you’re looking to both enjoy a bowl of traditional Japanese shoyu ramen while also kicking your ramen adventure up a notch, Kuroki will not disappoint. Be sure to get there early, as it’s one of the most popular ramen shops in all of Akihabara!
Address: 2-15 Kanda Izumicho, Chiyoda, Tokyo
Presenting a mouth-watering bowl of shoyu ramen with chicken, Rage is all the rage with ramen novices and experts alike. Their flavors are said to be refreshing, light, and satisfying. Rage can also lay claim to the fact that they use two different types of shoyu in their soups: ki-joyuu and kaeshi. Using the duality of different soy sauces might be how they gain their advantage against other shoyu ramen restaurants, though the locals are glad that they took the culinary risk to create such an amazingly tasty dish. Not only do they double-down on the shoyu, but they also use a combination of four different types of shamo chicken! Talk about a flavor overload!
Address: 3-37-22 Shoan Suginami Tokyo
How Does Shoyu Ramen Stand Up To Other Ramens?
Shoyu ramen has a deceptively light taste and is the stable broth used in many ramen dishes. When in doubt, people go for shoyu ramen. Although it has lighter flavors than other ramen soup bases, shoyu ramen is still as enriching and filling as any other ramen, and will continue being one of the most commonly consumed meals in Japan for many years to come.
If you’d like to compare different ramen soups and bases on your own, you can always start by signing up for our monthly instant ramen subscription box. Turn your home into a flavor laboratory as you compare the tastes of the best instant ramens Japan has to offer! Sign up today and have authentic Japanese instant ramen sent straight to your door every month; your stomach will thank you!